The Atlanta Hawks were two wins last season from an NBA Finals appearance. So naturally they expect great things again, if not more, for this upcoming campaign.
As the Hawks prepare to take on the Grizzlies in the preseason, I reached out to Graham Chapple of SBNation and asked him 5 questions about the excitement surrounding this season for Atlanta.
1. After an ECF appearance, would anything less than at least in the 2nd round be a disappointment?
Absoutely. A first-round outing after a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals would be a pretty dire sequel, especially since last season’s entire squad is coming back and arguably should be even better with the addition of Delon. Wright and the continued development of the young core – like De’Andre Hunter, Cam Reddish, Onyeka Okongwu (when he returns from injury in December), Kevin Huerter and, hell, Young and Collins themselves. I think the Hawks need to at least make the second round in an improved Eastern Conference, although they themselves would be disappointed in that.
2. Is Trae Young ready to take the next step to participate in the MVP discussion?
Trae Young already has everything he needs to be an MVP contender in terms of acting and production. I think his case for MVP will be in the form of what he can already do on average but with the success of the team in the regular season. If the Atlanta Hawks have found themselves in a situation where they are the No. 1 seed in the East and lead the way, he can certainly put himself in the running for the MVP talk.
3. Which offseason move / addition will have the greatest impact?
The Hawks have enjoyed a lot of continuity this summer. Basically everyone who was positive for them and hit free agency came back like John Collins and Lou Williams. They added Delon Wright to their ranks and I think he will turn out to be the best summer addition (of the few that have happened) on what is essentially last season’s squad and will fill the role that I am sure they were originally expecting Rajon Rondo last year (which was horrible on the pitch for the most part). Wright will provide much-needed stability when Young isn’t on the ground – non-Trae Young minutes were a big deal last season.
4. Besides an injury to Trae Young, which could set Atlanta back.
Obviously, a long-term injury to Trae Young (touching wood) would be disastrous, but if it were a situation like last season where he suffered an ankle injury and was out for a few weeks, the Hawks have enough offensive firepower to survive without him. I would be much more worried if an injury to Clint Capela took place. Big substitute Onyeka Okongwu is out until maybe Christmas and Capela is the backbone of that defense. John Collins could of course step in and play center if needed, but Capela is vital to this team’s ceiling and if he is forced to miss an extended period, I would be worried about the Hawks’ defense.
5. Down South Rivalry: If you could choose, would you prefer the Hawks to compete with the Grizzes or the Pelicans?
I like this question. I’m sure many would pick the Pelicans, which makes sense given that I think they already have an urgent need to nurture talent around Zion in the same way the Hawks broke the bank in 2020 to surround Young. more talents. Even still, I would choose the Grizzlies simply because I find their timelines so similar and interesting in so many ways. In 2016, the Grizzlies opted to sign their renowned free agent Mike Conley to this massive deal while the Hawks allowed theirs, Al Horford to leave. After a season of his replacement to Dwight Howard, that initial decision (among others in 2016) led the Hawks to begin their rebuild in the summer of 2017. The Grizzlies held on for a bit longer and when they pressed the reset button, they, like the Hawks, ended up with a dynamic guard (Young vs. Morant) and a scheming forward (John Collins vs. Jaren Jackson Jr.).
The Grizzlies did a better job initially surrounding Ja Morant with veteran talent and made it to the playoffs, something the Hawks lacked during Young’s first two seasons. Now you have to say that the Hawks have taken the next step to surround Young with the talent he deserves and, as a Grizzlies fan myself originally, I would be worried that Memphis has fallen behind in that regard. to help Morant in the same way. I see a lot of similarities between the respective reconstructions of Atlanta and Memphis that originated in their decisions from 2016. It’s really fun to think about it and if I had to choose the rivalry between either of them. these two teams, I would choose the Grizzlies because I see a lot of shared dynamics in terms of star personnel.
You can get everything you need on the Hawks from Graham – follow him on Twitter and find out fishing hoops also.
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